Resources and Ideas for School Christmas Plays
Being involved in a Christmas play is great fun, whether the play is religious or secular, a variety show, drama or pantomime. It is also good experience for children as it develops confidence and communication skills.
One of the simplest and best performances I was in as a child was a segment of CATS. The teacher simply played several tracks from a LP and the junior primary children crawled around in time to the music. The school had somehow obtained a selection of full-body cat costumes so we children absolutely loved being involved.
If you use music or musical theatre however, you must check that your school/organisation has obtained the correct licences. In Australia you pay a small fee to APRA to use selected segments of music. The right to use an entire musical theatre score can be incredibly expensive and it is my personal opinion that the teacher could better use their own talents in organising an original dramatic production or variety style show. The children could be involved in designing scripts and mimes, thus enhancing their creative literacy.
Ideas for Christmas plays:
The creative teacher or community group leader has a number of choices when organising their end of year or Christmas play. Traditionally certain types of plays have been popular during the Christmas season.
1. The Variety Show
This simply showcases the children's talents in the best way possible. To be successful, a variety show should contain some instrumental performances, jokes, comedy skits, simple dance routines, group and solo singing.
Novelty acts such as magic tricks, juggling, gymnastics and puppet performances may also be included.
This type of concert is ideal for introducing a multi-cultural element allowing students to share and experience music and dance from different countries.
2. The Pantomime
Pantomimes have been traditional Christmas fare for several centuries.
They feature comic characters such as Harlequin and Columbine, and may include fairy tale characters such as Snow White and the Dwarves.
Pantomimes are comical and rely heavily on masks (or face painting) and costuming for their effect.
Plot wise pantomimes are very simple. An evil villain is usually attempting to destroy the characters happiness, but is vanquished with ludicrous effects.
3. The Traditional Nativity Play
Christmas plays which present the events surrounding the birth of Christ are popular with private schools and religious groups. The acting is simple and the play may be narrated from a modern version of the Bible.
The whole story is not presented together in one gospel, so the narrator must combine several sections to create a script. Carol singing by the children and audience may accompany the play.
4. Secular Christmas themes
A secular Christmas story such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or the poem Twas the Night before Christmas may be dramatised.
Dr. Sues' The Grinch Who Stole Christmas has been made into a movie, but could be simplified for a school play, as could Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol.
5. Fairy Tales and Other Stories
- Cinderella and Pinocchio are not directly Christmas plays, but their popularity around this time of year has made them suitable fare.
- Many Disney cartoons and the folk tales underlying opera could thus be adapted into scripts for a school play. The Arabian Nights could also furnish some inspiring acts.
- Pirate stories may form a rollicking theme for Christmas plays. The original classic pirate stories were probably Pieces of Eight and Treasure Island, but these are less well known nowadays and have been eclipsed by offerings such asPirates of the Caribbean. Peter Pan (by J.M. Barrie and also a Disney cartoon) is an example of a child suitable pirate play.
6. Ballet themes
- Ballet performances such as The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty are associated with the Christmas season. If you have children with dance skills they could perform small dances, otherwise the stories could be transposed into dramatised scripts for acting.
More on Copyright:
Any Public Performance (public being defined as an audience of more than 6 persons) of a play is covered by copyright law. Studying and reading a play in your own class is okay however.
It is useful to bear in mind that plays and stories over a hundred years old may be free from copyright - although new editions of the texts will have a copyright attatched. Older plays may seem a little stilted to modern audiences and the speaches may be too long for children, but the teacher could script a new play based upon the plot and endeavour to maintain the spirit of the story.
Other plays may have been released into the Public Domain by persons who are interested in seeing their work performed. I suggest that if you use these plays you acknowledge the Dramatist on your handbill, and even consider dropping them a line telling them you produced their play. Knowing that their play has been produced gives them something for their resume and may help them apply for Arts grants.
A selection of plays of varying quality are available on the web from: http://www.dramatix.org/ I will be reviewing some of these over the coming months and may publish recommendations.
Free Drama resources on Hub pages:
- How to make a simple cat mask
Mask Making is fun whether it is done as an art and craft exercise or a Drama exercise. As I love drama, I prefer to have children make masks that are practical and wearable. They can then be used for...
- The Bronze Ring (A Fairy Tale)
The Bronze Ring is a free-to-read play for both children and adults. Theatre groups, directors, actors, teachers, students and anyone else may feel free to read this play.